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Archive: Sunday Old School Columns

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Sunday Old School: Remembering Peter Steele

Given the tragic news posted earlier this week, it seemed not just fitting, but mandatory that this week we dedicate Sunday Old School to the memory of Petrus T. Ratajczyk, better known as Peter Steele, who passed away last Wednesday. Steele was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and was the founder of the infamous crossover thrash band Carnivore, before going to achieve massive success with Type O Negative. Before that however, he was in a band named Fallout which also featured Agnostic Front drummer Louie Beateaux and future Type O Negative keyboardist Josh Silver. Fallout only lasted three years and in such time only released one record, a single named "Rock Hard" which was limited to 500 copies.

Beateaux would go with Steele after the demise of Fallout to form the band Carnivore in 1982, with a self-titled debut album being released in January 1986. The album was exceptionally well received and praised for its unrelenting speed and tongue in cheek humour, along with spawning such great songs as "World Wars III & IV," "Male Supremacy" and the title track. A second album named "Retaliation" would be released the following year through Roadrunner Records, which was once again critically praised. "Retaliation" would prove to be the bands last album however, as they split up soon after.

From here, Steele formed the band he is perhaps best known for, Type O Negative, which although labelled as a gothic metal outfit, mixed in many aspects of doom and thrash metal. The group released their first album, "Slow, Deep and Hard" in 1991, using alot of material which was originally meant for Carnivore. The album received mixed reviews, though music historian Piero Scaruffi would go on to call it "the greatest heavy metal album of all time." Type O Negative followed this release with "The Origin Of The Feces" which was designed to sound like a live album, dubbing in audience noises, banter and even stopping a song because the "venue" had a bomb threat called in. The album was less well received than "Slow, Deep and Hard" but the band would achieve massive success with their next album, "Bloody Kisses," which eventually reached Platinum status, becoming the first album from Roadrunner Records to do so. The album featured the popular singles "Black No. 1" and "Christian Woman" along with the controversial "Kill All The White People" and "We Hate Everyone." The band released two more acclaimed albums in the form of "October Rust" in 1996 and "World Coming Down" in 1999 before releasing a compilation album entitled, "The Least Worst Of." The group released their last album for Roadrunner, "Life Is Killing Me" which featured much shorter songs than previous albums, with the exception of the 7 and a half minute, "How Could She?" which is essentially a list of female television characters. More...

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Sunday Old School: Motorhead

The term "legend" is thrown around all too often these days, almost to the point where being an older band instantly gives you the title, but how many bands can not only honestly claim the title of "legend," but also "icons?" Only a handful. And within this handful, we find one of the best and loudest bands to ever tread the Earth - the one and only Motorhead. Motorhead is as important to heavy metal as Miles Davis is to Jazz. Every fan of metal, punk, hardcore and rock will be able to tell you who Motorhead is, and if you find one who can't, beat them with the heaviest object you can find, just so they get an idea for how heavy Motorhead is.

The band was formed by Ian Fraser Kilmister (aka Lemmy) in London in 1975, after he was released from the band Hawkwind for (of all reasons) excessive drug use. The band was originally going to be called "Bastard" until it was pointed out that shows like Top Of The Pops might have a tiny problem with such a tag, so the moniker was switched to Motorhead instead. The name came from the last song Lemmy wrote for Hawkwind and at the time was American slang for someone who often took Speed. Lemmy assembled guitarist Larry Wallis and drummer Lucas Fox and after only ten shows, they secured a slot opening for Blue Oyster Cult at the famous Hammersmith Odeon. They then recorded an album for United Artists but it wasn't to be released until the band gained popularity a few years later, as the label were unhappy with the material. Shortly after this, Wallis and Fox were no longer members of the band and "Fast" Eddie Clarke and Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor came in as replacements, forming one of the heaviest trios in the history of music. This lineup recorded a string of albums which are now regarded as classics by rock and metal fans, such as "Overkill," "Bomber" and of course, "Ace Of Spades," as well as topping the British albums chart with their live album, "No Sleep 'til Hammersmith." Following their next album, "Iron Fist" Eddie Clarke would leave the band, being replaced by former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson. This lineup of the group would only record one album, 1983's "Another Perfect Day" which earned the band some backlash from fans at the time, though it has gained a cult following over the years.Subsequently, both Robertson and Taylor left the band, leaving Lemmy to form an entirely new lineup, which he did with former Saxon drummer Pete Gill, ex-Persian Risk guitar player Phil Campbell and unknown guitarist Michael "Wurzel" Burston.

This lineup would only last for one compilation record and one studio album before Taylor returned to the band. Motorhead would release the albums, "1916" and "March Or Die" before Taylor was once again no longer a member, this time being replaced by King Diamond drummer Mikkey Dee. This lineup would release the album "Bastards" in 1993 and the band released a single the next year entitled, "Born To Raise Hell" which featured Ugly Kid Joe frontman Whitfield Crane and rap legend Ice-T, for the movie "Airheads." This lineup would again be a short lived one, as Wurzel was to leave the band following the "Sacrifice" album in 1995. Since then, Motorhead has continued as a three-piece and have released a further seven albums, with another one planned for this year. Many have also claimed that the group was rejuvinated by the beginning of the 21st century, as since 2004's "Inferno" they have received constant acclaim for their newer material, with plenty of fans and critics alike agreeing the band have been producing their best albums since the early 1980's. As was said at the beginning of this article, Motorhead aren't just legends, nor will people stop at calling them icons. They are are gods. They changed the face of rock music, proved it was alright for fans of metal and punk to like the same band, influenced thrash metal to no end and are still going strong thirty five years later, continually setting the standards for all bands out there. Long may they continue to show everyone how rock and roll is done! More...

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Sunday Old School: Sepultura

Thrash metal is best known for making metal stars out of bands from America and Germany, but every now and then, it would present a hero from somewhere no-one expected. In this case, it made metal legends out of a Brazilian band named Sepultura. The group was formed in the city of Belo Horizonte by brothers Max and Igor Cavalera, along with bass player Paulo Xisto and vocalist Wagner Lamounier. Lamounier left the band the next year and Max took over the spot behind the microphone, so the band recruited guitarist Jairo Guedes to be the band's lead player. This lineup would record the EP "Bestial Devastation" and the full length album "Morbid Visions" before Guedes left, to be replaced by Max Cavalera's former guitar technician Andreas Kisser. This is perhaps the best known lineup of the band, recording five studio albums together and breaking into the metal mainstream, becoming one of the genres leading young bands alongside Pantera.

The group began to receive commercial success in 1993 with the release of their album, "Chaos A.D." which features the singles, "Refuse/Resist," "Slave New World" and "Territory," three of the band's most well known songs. The group gained further success three years later when they released "Roots," an ambitious album that saw them embrace their Brazilian heritage, even recording a song with the Xavantes tribe. However the good times were not to last as Max Cavalera left the band on bad terms when the other members informed him they did not wish to renew the contract of their manager, who was also Max's wife. The band replaced their old singer with American, Derrick Green, who had previously released an album with the band Outface. This lineup released the record "Against" in 1998 but the album did not do as well as they had hoped. More...

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Sunday Old School: Two

A few months ago we took a look at Judas Priest, one of the most important and many would say greatest bands in the history of heavy metal. However in the early 1990s, the groups lead vocalist Rob Halford decided to quit the band and pursue other musical interests. The most controversial of these, was Two (sometimes written as 2wo), an industrial metal band he formed alongside guitarist John Lowery.

The band was formed by Halford and Lowery in 1997 after Halford decided not to continue his previous band, Fight. They quickly found themselves signed to Nothing Records, which was founded by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and released their Reznor produced debut album, "Voyeurs" the following year. It was around this time that Halford first openly stated that he was homosexual and the band worked with gay porn director Chi Chi Laurue for their music video "I Am A Pig." The band received a harsh backlash from long time fans of Rob Halford, who wanted to hear more of a traditional heavy metal style and concert attendence was generally poor, coupled with the problem of audience members shouting for the band to perform Judas Priest songs. A music video and single release was planned for the song "Stutter Kiss" as it had featured on the soundtracks for a few movies, however this idea was scrapped due to the albums poor commercial performance.

Although there was talk of the band recording a second studio album for a different label, it was not meant to be. Halford disbanded Two in 1998 and formed a new band, simply named Halford which was more in the vein of the traditional heavy metal sound for which he was known. John Lowery went on to become the guitarist for Marilyn Manson and later Rob Zombie. Since the bands demise, the "Voyeurs" albums has gained a cult following among fans of industrial metal and Rob Halford, with Halford saying he would like to release the demos the band did for the album as they were apparantly heavier and more metal sounding, claiming Trent Reznor had too much control over the production for "Voyeurs." Reznor himself has disowned the album and when questioned about it, has been very critical of the record. More...

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Sunday Old School: Body Count

The relationship between rap music and the world of hard rock and heavy metal has long been an interesting one. In many ways, both genres are very different and many members of each community look at the other with contempt. Whether it it be that metal fans think that rap is all about "bitches and money" or that rap fans think metal fans look stupid and every band is just screaming. However there are many others in both genres who at least respect the other, at times colloborating such as Public Enemy and Anthrax. One such member of the rap world who had a respect, admiration and love for hard rock and metal music was the legendary Ice-T. Ice-T decided to form his own rock band, Body Count with musicians he knew from school to help expand his musical palette in 1990 and debuted the band at the 1991 Lollapalooza tour, which many stated was the highlight of the tour. From there the band appeared on Ice-T's acclaimed album, "O.G. Original Gangster" and opened for Guns N' Roses before releasing their self-titled debut album in March 1992.

The band was highly controversial, not least due to the song, "Cop Killer," a song inspired by the Talking Heads track "Psycho Killer" and intended to criticise corrupt police officers in the United States. The band was boycotted by police groups as well as parents and the religious right and were even denounced by then U.S. President George H. W. Bush. "Cop Killer" wasn't the only song on the album to receive a negative reaction either. "KKK Bitch"and "Evil Dick" also gained the band notoriety for what people saw as obscene lyrics, to the point where noted actor Charlton Heston entered a Time Warner shareholders meeting and read the lyrics out, confident with a sense of unwarranted self-importance that by doing this the band would be fired from the label. Ice-T himself decided to remove the song "Cop Killer" from the album because he felt that the band should be more known for their music than controversy. The band does, however, continue to perform the song live.

Since then the band has released three more albums, 1994's "Born Dead," 1997's "Violent Demise: The Last Days" and 2006's "Murder 4 Hire." Sadly, of the original lineup, only Ice-T and lead guitarist Ernie C are still alive, with drummer Beastmaster V passing away in 1996 after a battle with leukemia, bass player Mooseman being killed in a shooting while working for Iggy Pop in 2001 and guitarist D-Roc succumbing to lymphoma in 2004. The band has been inactive for a while but recently made an apperance at the Vans Warped Tour anniversary party in Los Angeles. No word has been given on whether they will record a new album again at some point, but Body Count still holds a large cult following across the globe, particularly in Europe, and the very thought of a new tour or album is something that generates a lot of excitement... and probably some controversy for good measure. More...

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Sunday Old School: Tank

The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was responsible for some of the most popular metal bands the world has ever known. Making household names out of Iron Maiden and Def Leppard and granting Saxon the position of legends. However, for many bands in the movement, success was to be very short lived, if even found at all. Many N.W.O.B.H.M. bands were able to enter the British album charts with their debut, only to lose their popularity and fame shortly afterwards. Tank is one of these bands.

The group was formed in 1980 by bass player and vocalist Algy Ward, who had just left British punk rock legends The Damned. Tank gained favourable comparisons to Motorhead for their high energy heavy metal played with a punk edge and their entertaining lyrics. They released their first album, "Filth Hounds Of Hades" in 1982, which entered the British album charts at number 33 and is now regarded as one of the best albums from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement. This would be the only taste of chart success Tank received unfortunately, as their next albums sold less than the band's debut. They decided to call it a day in 1989.

However, much like a number of other bands from the scene, Tank reunited in the late 1990s and performed a number of concerts in Japan and Europe before releasing a comeback album in 2002 entitled, "Still At War." The group has struggled since then however, with an album named "Sturmpanzer" sitting on the shelf since 2006. Founder Algy Ward is also no longer a member of the band and vocal duties are now handled by former Rainbow and Praying Mantis frontman Doogie White. The band is expected to finally release a new studio album this year through Soundhouse Records. More...

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Sunday Old School: Hirax

Thrash metal has grown to become one of the most popular sub-genres in the history of metal. It has it's stars of course such as Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer and it has the band's with more of a large cult following such as Exodus and Testament. But like any other movement, it also has it's forgotten heroes. When researching the original thrash metal scenes, one will inevitably stumble upon a band named Hirax, one of the most dedicated and unique bands in the field.

Like many other thrash metal bands in the 1980s, they were signed to Metal Blade Records, through which they released two studio albums. "Raging Violence" in 1985 and "Hate, Fear And Power" the following year. The second album was a rushed release thanks to pressure from the label and clocked in at just over sixteen minutes, featuring only eight songs. Frontman Katon De Pena left the band not long after, due to internal tensions and what he saw as bad label management, forming the short-lived band Phantasm with original Metallica bassist Ron McGovney and Dark Angel drummer Gene Hoglan. Hirax themselves replaced Katon with former Exodus frontman Paul Baloff, though they decided to call it a day not long after.

The band would reunite with the original lineup in 2000 and released the "El Diablo Negro" EP the same year, however the reunion was not to last as by the next year, Katon De Pena was the only original member left in the band. Since then he has kept Hirax going strong, releasing several EPs and two studio albums, "New Age Of Terror" (2004) and "El Rostro de la Muerte" (2009), as well as building up a strong fan base in South America. More...

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Sunday Old School: Bathory

In previous Sunday Old School articles, we have looked at three of the bands that really helped to inspire and form the genre of black metal, in the forms of Venom, Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate. However there is another band just as important in the formation of black metal that we are yet to examine. Namely, Sweden's Bathory. The band was formed in the city of Stockholm in 1983 by Tomas Forsberg, better known to his fans as Quorthon, and two friends. They went through a number of name changes before settling on Bathory and released their self-titled debut album the following year. This album, along with "The Return" and "Under The Sign Of The Black Mark" are now regarded as huge influences on the infamous Norwegian black metal scene's music in the 1990s.

Bathory not only helped to pioneer black metal, but also viking metal too, when they began incorporating viking themes on their next album, "Blood Fire Death." The group went further with this styling on their record, "Hammerheart," now regarded as a landmark in the field of viking metal. They would continue the "Hammerheart" style on their next two albums, "Twilight Of The Gods" and "Blood On Ice" before changing their sound once again, this time sounding more like thrash metal. This move was criticized by many of the band's fans and they returned to the viking approach on their last albums. Sadly, the band would not be able to continue, as in June of 2004, Quorthon (now the band's sole original member) was found dead in his home from an apparant heart failure. The legacy of Bathory has since been remembered with a box set released in 2006 and several tribute albums. More...

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Sunday Old School: Remembering Bon Scott

Close your eyes and think of AC/DC. If you're like most people, the first thing that enters your mind is the image of Angus Young in his schoolboy suit doing his Chuck Berry on speed duckwalk across the stage. The second thing for most is the image of singer Brian Johnson, cap pulled down nearly to his eyes, letting loose with a powerdrill wail.

For 30 years, that's been the case — but it wasn't always so. There was a time when AC/DC's vocalist was every bit as outrageous and unpredictable as its pint-sized guitar god. With a boozy strut, and a wicked glint in his eye that bespoke propensities for violence when provoked and sex whenever (and wherever), Bon Scott commanded the stage in ways that only a few frontmen — Jagger, Plant and (just maybe) David Lee Roth — could match.

Scott is often spoken of as being “AC/DC's first singer,” but that's not the case. The band's first vocalist was Dave Evans, a much more glam-inspired singer. Of course, the band during Evans' tenure behind the microphone was a much more glam-inspired bunch, as the video clip for the first single “Can I Sit Next To You Girl” below shows (and dig Angus and Malcolm Young trading licks in a way you don't normally see in this band). But Angus Young and Evans didn't get along, and the band was looking for a new, rawer singer.

They didn't have to look far. At the time, Bon Scott was working for the band as its driver. Before that, though, Scott had been well-known in Australia as one of two lead vocalists in the bubblegum pop band the Valentines, and as the singer of the hippy-dippy outfit Fraternity (dig that recorder). Several accounts point to Scott being much more interested in singing hard rock in the bars after the gigs than he was in performing either of these types of music.

That, of course, made AC/DC the perfect fit for him. And if you thought Angus Young's schoolboy outfit was outrageous, check out Bon's schoolGIRL outfit in this early television appearance, in which the band plays its cover of “Baby Please Don't Go.”

Scott's first two albums with AC/DC, “High Voltage” and, especially “TNT” still form a big chunk of the modern AC/DC setlist. Tunes like “The Jack” allowed Bon to show off his talent for clever wordplay and his ability to quickly learn new instruments (he was also a fairly adept guitarist and an excellent drummer) came in handy on the bagpipe-enhanced “It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N Roll).”

Next up was 1976's “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” which emphasized boogie over blazing guitar work on tracks like “There's Gonna Be Some Rockin'.” The title track is a classic, but for me, the heart of the album is the slower, surprisingly introspective “Ride On,” which hints at the loneliness of life on the road.

“Let There Be Rock,” the band's 1977 classic album is, as Angus Young put it, “a fucking great guitar album.” It's the other Scott album that has taken up big chunks of the band's setlist to the present day, with songs like the title track and Scott's ode to a large Tasmanian woman he had the pleasure of knowing, “Whole Lotta Rosie.” With such blazing fretwork, it's small wonder that Angus' guitar amp once caught fire during the recording sessions.

The next year came “Powerage,” which is arguably the most underrated album of the Scott era, despite having fans that included Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. It's a surprisingly dark affair, with “What's Next to the Moon?” having not-so-veiled threats of murder against the object of the singer's affections. “Riff Raff” and “Sin City” both have gotten a fair amount of play on stage, and, more recently, the band resurrected “Rock 'n' Roll Damnation” on the “Live at the Circus Krone” DVD. The chief criticism of the album was that it seemed to be too much a continuation of “Let There Be Rock.” I say, what's wrong with that?

After 1978's live “If You Want Blood, You've Got It” came the high point, in terms of sales and recognition, of Scott's tenure with the band, 1979's “Highway to Hell.” The title track wasn't — as some would later claim — an ode to Satan, but rather a colorful description of life on the road, which had its origins in a quote from Angus Young to a reporter. “Shot Down in Flames” and “Girls Got Rhythm” have stayed in the AC/DC setlist, off and on, as has “Highway to Hell.”

And then, in 1980, it ended all too soon. Scott died of acute alcohol poisoning in a friend's car 30 years ago this week.

The band soldiered on with Brian Johnson taking his place on “Back In Black,” some of which had been written before Scott's passing. There exist demo recordings of a couple tracks (most notably “Have a Drink on Me”) with Scott on drums, but, to my knowledge, they've never been released even in bootleg form.

The band has paid tribute to Scott several times over the years, releasing the “'74 Jailbreak” EP in 1984 with some previously Australian-only releases, and the expansive “Bonfire” box set in 1997, which included studio rarities, the soundtrack to the “Let There Be Rock” concert film and more.

Last year, the band put out “Backtracks,” a box set that essentially cleared the decks of all the rest of the B-sides and Aussie-only tracks that had built up over the years. It's well worth buying for tracks like “Stick Around” and the itchy ode to body lice, “Crabsody In Blue.” But be prepared to shiver a little when Scott eerily foretells his own death in “Carry Me Home.”

So, let's raise our glass to one of rock's greatest. “Let There Be Rock,” shouted Bon Scott, and there was. And it was much more than good.

AC/DC — "Can I Sit Next To You Girl"
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Sunday Old School: 25 Years of Deliverance

In the mid-1980s, Jimmy P. Brown had a question: Could the style then being perfected by thrashers like Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer be made to do the Lord's work? Brown provided a definitive answer of “yes,” forming Deliverance.

Sure, Christian metal had been done before — most notably by the yellow-and-black-bedecked Stryper, but never quite as heavy. Deliverance's sound was righteously angry, as were the song titles and lyrics. Thanks in part to a video that got MTV play, the band was able to cross over and gain fans in the mainstream metal crowd.

The band's great influence on the Christian metal scene will be celebrated this year with “Temporary Insanity: A Salute To Deliverance,” a two-disc tribute album featuring contributions from members of bands including The Crucified, Vengeance Rising and Darkness Falls. The album will also include a new Deliverance recording.

Deliverance first made its appearance on a compilation album called “California Metal.” Their debut album didn't make many waves, but their second, 1990's “Weapons Of Our Warfare” did — even spawning a video that appeared on MTV.

The band's third album, “What A Joke,” was less successful, and the band then underwent a musical overhaul, becoming less of a thrash band and moving more toward a progressive direction. The result was the album “Stay Of Execution.” The band kept the progressive bent on their next disc, “Learn.”

Deliverance released “River Disturbance” in 1994 and “Camelot In Smithereens” in 1995.

“Assimilation” came out in 2001, followed by another long break. Brown, the group's only constant member, reformed Deliverance in 2006, with the result being 2007's “As Above – So Below.”

This year, the band will release “The Annals Of Subterfuge” through Retroactive Records.

Weapons Of Our Warfare
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Sunday Old School: Destruction

When thinking about the history of thrash metal, one usually always thinks of the Bay Area in the United States first, followed quickly by the thrash scene on the East Coast. But there was another scene in the 1980s that was just as important, namely the one in Germany. Much like America has it's "Big Four" of thrash (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer), Germany has it's "Three Kings" who consist of Sodom, Kreator and our featured band of the day, Destruction. Destruction were formed in the town of Weil am Rhein under the name of Knight Of Demon in 1982 but (wisely) decided to change their name to Destruction two years later. During this year they were able to release an EP entitled, "Sentance Of Death" through Steamhammer Records before releasing their debut full length album, "Infernal Overkill" in 1985. The band was originally a trio but added a second guitarist in the form of Harry Wilkens, with whom they recorded another two albums, a live record and an EP before lead singer and bass player Marcel "Schmier" Schirmer was asked to leave the band due to creative differences. He would respond by forming the band Headhunter.

After splitting with Schmier, the band found themselves going through a terrible period commercially, having lost their record label support in favour of grunge music, the band had to self- finance and self-release their new albums. Eventually, Schmier was asked back into the band and the reunited team of Schmier and guitarist Mike Hilfiger, along with drummer Sven Vormann, were able to secure a deal with Germany's Nuclear Blast Records, releasing several highly acclaimed studio albums ever since such as "All Hell Breaks Loose," "The Antichrist" and most recently, "D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N." Destruction still tour the world today, appearing at many of the big European festivals and heading out on headlining tours of their own. More...

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Sunday Old School: Scorpions

Given the sad news earlier today that the Scorpions would be breaking up, it seemed the most fitting time to take a look at one of the greatest bands that Germany ever produced. The Scorpions formed way back in 1965 by guitarist Rudolf Schenker as a band which had more of a beat influence until 1969 when Rudolf's brother Michael joined the band on lead guitar and they recruited lead singer Klause Meine. The band released their first album, "Lonesome Crow" in 1972 and promoted the release by touring as support to British hard rockers UFO. The band would split up briefly after this tour, due to Michael Schenker leaving to join UFO. Rudolf Schenker would join the band Dawn's Road with Uli Jon Roth afterwards and convinced Meine to join him. After a while, the band decided to resurrect the Scorpions name as it was well known in the German rock scene.

The new lineup recorded several successful albums such as "Fly To The Rainbow," "In Trance" and "Virgin Killer," the latter of which caused considerable controversy due to it's album cover. The band began to hit their critical peak when they released "Lovedrive" in 1979 which contained the excellent title track as well as "Is There Anybody There?" and "Holiday," which are considered classics of the band's catalogue. The band released two more albums, "Animal Magnetism" and "Blackout" before cementing their place as hard rock superstars with the "Love At First Sting" album, which featured "Rock You Like A Hurricane," perhaps the band's most well known song.

Since then, the Scorpions has released several more acclaimed albums and gone on to sell over 75 million records worldwide. Their song "Winds Of Change" was hailed as an anthem during the end of the Cold War and were the second hard rock band to perform in Russia under Soviet rule (the first being Uriah Heep.) They are regarded as one of the best live groups from the so-called "classic" heavy metal bands and are also considered pioneers of the heavy metal ballad style. They will be releasing their final studio album, "Sting In The Tail" later this year with a worldwide farewell tour to follow.

Scorpions - "Rock You Like A Hurricane"
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Sunday Old School: Bolt Thrower

Bolt Thrower is seemingly one of the more forgotten bands when it comes to looking at the history of the British death metal and grindcore scene. They were formed in the city of Coventry in September 1986 and went on to release their debut album, "In Battle There Is No Law," in 1988 through Vinyl Solution Records. Unsatisfied with their record deal, the band moved over to Earache Records, which housed many of their contemporaries such as Napalm Death and Cathedral. Bolt Thrower struck up a deal with British model store Games Workshop and the chain store's main artist, with the band giving away a free record with the store's magazine, White Dwarf. In return, Games Workshop did the band's artwork for free for their next album, "Realm Of Chaos."

Since then, Bolt Thrower has continued to perform live and record new albums, although some speculate that the band may never record another album again, given how satisfied they were with their latest album, "Those Once Loyal." The band stated that they always planned to stop releasing albums once they felt they had recorded the "perfect Bolt Thrower album," a feeling they seemed to have secured with "Those Once Loyal." Bolt Thrower remains a big influence on modern death metal and deathcore, with German deathcore act Heaven Shall Burn naming their debut EP "In Battle There Is No Law" after the band's first album.

Bolt Thrower - "The IVth Crusade"
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Sunday Old School: Thin Lizzy

On January 4th 1986, the world of hard rock lost one of it's greatest figures and heavy metal lost one of it's biggest influences in the form of Phillip Parris Lynott, the lead vocalist and bass player of Thin Lizzy, when he passed away from multiple organ failure at the age of thirty six. Lynott has since been remembered for being one of, if not the best, lyricist in heavy music, drawing much inspiration from poetry and Irish folklore and is constantly mentioned as one of the best frontmen of all time, easily contending for the title along with Bon Scott, Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger. You only have to listen to "Live And Dangerous", a classic in the field of live albums, to hear how well Lynott could work the audience. The line "Is there anybody here with a bit of Irish in them? ... Is there any girls out there who'd like a bit more Irish in them?" from this record has gone down as one of the most memorable quotes in music history. He was well known for living the rock and roll lifestyle which included drink, drugs and sex as main ingredients, so much so that after he passed away, a doctor reportedly said "He died from a lifestyle." Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll may have been a song by Ian Dury, but no-one personified it quite like Phil Lynott.

Phil Lynott joined Thin Lizzy in December 1969, along with his friend Brian Downey. The two performed together as part of the band Orphanage and were spotted by organ player Eric Wrixon and guitarist Eric Bell, who were previously members of the famous band Them, fronted by the legendary Van Morrison. Bell and Wrixon approached Lynott and Downey after Orphanage finished playing their set and suggested they form a band together, which was agreed on the condition that Lynott also play bass guitar and that they would perform some of his own compositions. This lineup would release only one record, a single entitled "The Farmer" through EMI. The single only sold 283 copies and has since become a rare collectors item. Following from this commercial failure, Wrixon left Thin lizzy to return to Them, leaving the band as a three piece. Thin Lizzy soldiered on and signed to Decca Records in 1970, releasing their self-titled debut album the next year. The album sold fairly well and the band followed with the much more Celtic orientated album, "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" in March of 1972. Neither of the bands first two albums found a place in the charts but they received a high profile support slot when they were invited to tour with the hugely popular Slade and Suzi Quatro later that year.

The band tasted their first chart success soon afterwards when Decca Records, against the band's wishes, released their cover of the Irish ballad "Whiskey In The Jar." The single topped the Irish charts and entered the U.K. charts at number six, leading to their first appearance on the revered show, Top Of The Pops. The band were not quite as succesful with their next singles which only entered the Irish charts. More...

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Sunday Old School: Cathedral

A few weeks ago, we took a look at British grindcore legends Napalm Death and saw that several bands related to them have become legends in their own right. This week we take a look at one of these bands, in the form of Lee Dorrian's legendary doom metal outfit Cathedral. Cathedral were formed in Coventry, in the Midlands area of England in 1989 but had already earned a degree of underground fame as the bands lead vocalist Lee Dorrian had been the singer of Napalm Death beforehand and guitarist Garry Jennings was previously a member of British thrash metal outfit Acid Reign, who had reached the number ten spot on the U.K. Indie album charts with their debut album, "The Fear." The band were much different from their associated acts and were more inspired from the slower metal bands such as The Obsessed and Black Sabbath than Motorhead and Kreator. After recruiting bass player Mark Griffiths (a Carcass roadie) and drummer Mike Smail, the band recorded their first album, "Forest Of Equilibrium" which is now regarded as a classic in the genre of doom metal. The album featured extremely slow and long songs, which took fans of the British underground scene by complete surprise at the time and left the band with a mixed reception when they performed shows with the likes of Entombed, Carcass and Confessor.

The band followed this impressive debut with "The Ethereal Mirror" (which had a number of working titles including "Decadence and Journey Into Jade) in 1993 and once again received critical acclaim, with some media refering to the band as "the next big thing in metal." The album also saw the band experiment more with their sound, fusing a stoner rock influence with their doom laden grind. The album also produced two music videos in the shape of "Ride" and "Midnight Mountain" which received some negative feedback from fans as they were quite light hearted in nature. The band took on two new members after this release, with bass player Leo Smee and drummer Brian Dixon and released yet another outstanding album on September 26th 1995 in the form of "The Carnival Bizzare." The album featured the song, "Hopkins (Witchfinder General)" which has become one of the bands best known songs and a staple of their live set. The song also received a music video that included clips from the Vincent Price movie "Witchfinder General" as well as the band performing in a tongue in cheek fasion. The album also boasted a guest guitar solo from Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi on the song, "Utopian Blaster."

Cathedral have continued to tour the world and record albums ever since and have cemented their place as true legends in the field of doom and stoner metal by releasing more well received albums such as "Caravan Beyond Redemption" and "The VIIth Coming." Fans of the band are expecting 2010 to be another great year for Cathedral when they release a new studio album entitled, "The Guessing Game" in March, which likely include a world tour to help promote the record. Doom on! More...

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Sunday Old School: Kyuss

In 1989, four young men who enjoyed playing Dungeons And Dragons would form a band that has since gone one to become a huge influence on thousands upon thousands of musicians, particularly in the doom and stoner areas of metal. Vocalist John Garcia, guitarist Josh Homme, bass player Chris Cockrell and drummer Brant Bjork formed the band with the original name of Sons Of Kyuss and released their debut EP of the same name in 1989. This would be the bands only release with Cockrell, as he was replaced by Nick Oliveri soon afterwards. The band shortened their name to Kyuss and developed a large following in their home state of California, where they would perform regularly at parties in isolated areas of southern California. These would become known as "generator parties" and included the use of gasoline-powered generators to provide electricity for the equipment.

The band released their first full length album, "Wretch" in 1991 after signing with Dali Records. Several of these songs wre re-recorded versions of songs from the "Sons Of Kyuss" EP that was released two years previous. Many felt the album was a poor showing of the band, owing to the lack of money and production skills. The band were able achieve critical acclaim with their next album however, when they released "Blues For The Red Sun" in June 1992. The success of the album allowed the band to tour as support to Metallica (who had just released the mainstream smash hit Black Album at the time) and perform with other notable bands such as The Obsessed. Nick Oliveri was not part of the touring cycle however, after he left the band shortly following the albums completion, being replaced by Scott Reeder. Kyuss continued their success by signing with major label, Elektra and releasing the classic "Welcome To Sky Valley" album (the album is self-titled, but fans refer to the record by this name.)

Kyuss would suffer the loss of another band member after this album was released, when original drummer Brant Bjork quit the band, citing bad relations between band members and a hatred for touring. Alfredo Hernández stepped in as his replacement and this incarnation of the band recorded their fourth and sadly final album, "...And The Circus Leaves Town," in 1995. The album was once again seen as a masterpiece from critics, particularly the outstanding cover of the Yawning Man song, "Catamaran," but failed to become as commericially successful as the bands previous release. In October of that year, Kyuss decided to call it a day. Ever since their demise, the band has been offered on numerous occassions to reform, although it seems highly unlikely due to the success of guitarist Homme's post-Kyuss band, Queens Of The Stone Age (which also featured Nick Oliveri for a time.) More...

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Sunday Old School: Napalm Death

Having been credited with the creation of the grindcore genre, many people will claim that Napalm Death are among the most influential bands in the world of extreme metal and some people will go so far as to say they were the last band from Great Britain to have a signifficant impact on the world of metal. Like many great British metal bands such as Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, Napalm Death were formed in the Midlands area of England, starting up in 1981 in the village of Meriden, just outside of Birmingham. The band recorded a four song demo in 1982 and continued to perform regularly until towards the end of 1983 when they imposed a hiatus of sorts, with only one concert being performed in 1984 (a benefit show for the striking mine workers.) The band would return permanently in 1985 and performed many shows at their local pub The Murmaid, which was known to host hardcore matinees on the weekend. The band achieved a stable line up when drummer Mick Harris joined the group, complimenting the guitar sounds of Justin Broadrick and bass player/vocalist Nic Bullen. This lineup of the band recorded the first half of the now classic album, "Scum" in 1986, however before they could record the B-side to the album, both Broadrick and Bullen left the band. Harris recruited Bill Steer (later of Carcass fame) on guitar, bass player Jim Whitely and friend of the band, Lee Dorrian to join as the groups new singer, even though he had never sang before. This lineup recorded the second half of "Scum," completing what is now regarded as a classic in the field of extreme metal. The band replaced Whitely with bass player Shane Embury and recorded their second album, "From Enslavement To Obliteration" which was released in October of 1988 before Steer left the band to focus on Carcass full time and Dorrian quit to form the now legendary doom metal band, Cathedral.

The band recruited vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway, of the British death metal outfit Benediction and their first international members in the form of Mexican guitarist Jesse Pintado, who had previously been known as the guitarist and founding member of Terrorizer and second guitarist Mitch Harris (who is from the United States of America) after touring with Bolt Thrower, Carcass and Morbid Angel. This lineup of the band recorded only one album, "Harmony Corruption" before Mick Harris decided to leave the band to form Scorn, leaving no members of the "Scum" lineup left. Napalm Death replaced him with American drummer Danny Herrera. These band members would then continue throughout the the 1990's recording eight albums together (Greenway was briefly fired from the band in 1996 and replaced with Extreme Noise Terror vocalist Phil Vane and while Vane never recorded with Napalm Death, Greenway recorded vocals for the Extreme Noise Terror album, "Damage 381" before returning to Napalm Death following the dismissal of Vane.)

In 2004, Jesse Pintado left the band and Napalm Death has since continued as a four-piece, releasing a string of critically acclaimed albums in the form of "The Code Is Red... Long Live The Code," "Smear Campaign" and most recently, "Time Waits For No Slave." Jesse Pintado sadly passed away in a hospital in Holland in 2006, after suffering from a liver failure. Napalm Death are a unique band because not only are they themselves regarded as hugely influential, but so are practically every band related to them. Lee Dorrian's Cathedral have become known as one of the best doom metal bands of all time and Bill Steer's Carcass has similarly been recognised as one of the greatest death metal bands in history. Justin Broadrick's bands Godflesh and Jesu have become recognised as influential and groundbreaking and even bands that only had small links to the band such as Extreme Noise Terror and Terrorizer have since become known as legends in the field of grindcore. While Napalm Death are often imitated, they are, as they say, never duplicated. More...

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Sunday Old School: Death

A few weeks ago I was in the metal section of my local HMV branch, when I heard some kids mention a name. "Oooh! Death! What a great band name! Honestly, who would buy an album from a band with such a stupid name? I bet they suck!" All I could think to myself as they wandered away with their copies of the latest Slipknot and Panic! At The Disco albums was, "If you only knew, kids...." Quite honestly, Death's name is about the only thing anyone could ever have a problem with. Everything else about them is pure magic. Death is responsible for some of the best songs, album covers, song titles and musicianship in the celebrated history of extreme metal.

Death was formed in 1983 by vocalist/guitarist Chuck Schuldiner in the city of Orlando, Florida. They released their first album, "Scream Bloody Gore," four years later and quickly established themselves as one of the pioneers of death metal along with bands such as Possessed and Obituary. Their next album, "Leprosy" followed on where "Scream Bloody Gore" left off lyrically, focusing on violence, blood and guts, but the band changed to writing about more social and political issues on their next album, "Spiritual Healing." This album also featured alot more in the way of melodies and musical progression than the previous two albums. The band continued with their progression into the technical side of death metal when they released the album "Human" in 1991, which featured Schuldiner as well as Sadus bassist Steve DiGorgio and Cynic members Sean Reinhert and Paul Masvidal. "Human" also featured the band's first song to be given the music video treatment, "Lack Of Comprehension." More...

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Sunday Old School: Ronnie James Dio

Since my first “real” news posting had to do with the unfortunate news of Ronnie James Dio's stomach cancer, I thought it might make some karmic sense if my first Sunday Old School posting had something to do with the the remarkable frontman.

I suspect a lot of people my age (36 years young) are like me in that the first time they ever heard of Dio was in seeing the phrase “OZZY RULES! DIO DROOLS!” scrawled on a wooden desk in junior high or high school. That's naturally a reference to the fact that Dio had replaced Ozzy Osbourne as the singer for Black Sabbath, following Ozzy's firing in 1979.

Dio would serve as Sabbath's lead vocalist on the seminal albums “Heaven & Hell,” “Mob Rules” and “Live Evil” before parting ways with Sabbath until 1991 when he rejoined the band for “Dehumanizer.” Another parting of the ways lasted until 2006, when his version of Sabbath reformed under the moniker Heaven & Hell and recorded new tracks for a greatest hits CD, as well as “Live from Radio City Music Hall” in 2007, and a new studio album, “The Devil You Know” in 2009.

Beginning with 1983's “Holy Diver,” he racked up plenty of album sales and accolades with his own band, Dio.

But there's an important chapter of Dio's professional career that seems to get at best a cursory glance among a lot of metalheads I know, which is unfortunate, because it seems to me to be very much a transformative time for one of metal's most powerful vocalists.

I am, of course, talking about his time in Rainbow, the post-Deep Purple band formed by guitar-god Ritchie Blackmore in the mid-1970s.

Blackmore had departed Deep Purple after arguments about the more “funky” direction that singer David Coverdale and bassist Glenn Hughes were taking the band in. In search of a new singer and band, he didn't have to look far.

Elf, which featured Dio on vocals, had been touring as a supporting act for Deep Purple. Blackmore essentially grafted himself into the band, renaming it and collaborating with Dio to write the tracks for the appropriately named “Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow.”

The song most everyone remembers from that 1975 album is “Man on the Silver Mountain,” with its son-of-“Smoke on the Water” riff and powerful delivery by Dio declaring himself a medieval metal prophet. It's become such a staple in the Dio arsenal that it's easy to forget how much of a milestone it is for the singer. Compare the supernatural lyrics with the somewhat more pedestrian (if equally well-performed) lyrics of tracks like Elf's “Carolina County Ball,” and you'll see what I mean.

That's hardly the only great one, though. The album also features “16th Century Greensleeves,” which would seem to be a precursor to Blackmore's later career, as well as the superb Quartermass cover “Black Sheep of the Family.”

By Rainbow's next album, 1976's “Rising,” Blackmore had fired everyone but Dio from the band and, if you ask me, the replacement keyboardist, Tony Carey and bassist Jimmy Bain (who'd later play with Dio in the 1980s) aren't completely up to snuff. It's this incarnation of Rainbow's weakest album, though tracks like the opener, “Tarot Woman” and the huge 8-minute closer “Stargazer” still hold up well.

The band had a return to glory with 1978's “Long Live Rock 'n' Roll,” which featured bass contributions from future Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath bassist Bob Daisley. The disc, which does feature some of the medieval and experimental sounds featured on the previous two studio albums (a live album, “On Stage,” was released in 1977), there's a surprising amount of pure blues-rock stomp this go-round, especially on the title track. “L.A. Connection” reminds me a bit of the bluesier side of the Doors, while “Sensitive to Light” is just a good-time rocker of the finest sort. Meanwhile, the darker lyrical themes Dio would go on to explore in Sabbath are on full display in the creepy Middle Eastern-sounding “Gates of Babylon.” The album's finest hour, though, comes with the speedy “Kill the King.”

Dio left the band in 1979 following a dispute with Blackmore over the guitarist's desire to take the band in a more “commercial” direction, which he ultimately did with vocalists like Joe Lynn Turner and Graham Bonnet.

If you ask me, though, the Dio era is a golden era for Rainbow, as well as the moment that one of metal's finest discovered his true voice and calling. As I and other metal fans await news of the ailing singer's condition, I take some measure of comfort in his “Man on the Silver Mountain” declaration that “You'll never stop me burning.”

May it be so.

Carolina County Ball (with Elf)
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Sunday Old School: Judas Priest

To some people, the Midlands born five-piece Judas Priest were the first heavy metal band, being as they were the first band to actually embrace the term "heavy metal." Whether you agree or not, they are certainly one of the most important bands in the history of metal. No other band has had the longevity of Judas Priest and arguably no other band has had the heart and passion that Priest have had with them since 1969. The band first consisted of guitarist KK Downing, bass player Ian Hill, lead vocalist Al Atkins and drummer John Ellis and went on to support the likes of Thin Lizzy, Budgie and Trapeze under this lineup. Eventually, Hill brought in his girlfriend's brother Rob Halford to replace Atkins and Ellis was replaced with John Hinch. The band once again toured supporting Budgie and developed such a following that they were able to headline shows in other countries such as Norway and Germany. Once the band signed to Gull Records, the label suggested they add another musician and the band chose guitarist Glen Tipton to become one of the pioneers of the twin guitar sound along with bands like Wishbone Ash. After the recording of their first album, "Rocka Rolla," the band would use a series of session drummers for their next albums, "Sad Wings Of Destiny" and "Sin After Sin" and settled on drummer Les Binks after touring in support of the latter record.

The band went on to record "Stained Class" and "Killing Machine" (known in North America as "Hell Bent For Leather") with Les Binks before he left the band and was replaced with drummer Dave Holland, who would stay with the band for their next six studio albums and one live record. The band struck gold in 1980 when they released "British Steel," which is considered one of, if not the greatest, heavy metal album of all time. The album contained the hit singles, "Breaking The Law," "Living After Midnight" and "United" and helped the band to achieve worldwide rock stardom. The band would continue their success with a series of critically acclaimed albums such as "Point Of Entry," "Screaming For Vengeance" and "Defenders Of The Faith." Their next album, "Turbo" was met with mixed reviews due to its use of synthesisers and the record after that, "Ram It Down" was considered to be a small step up from "Turbo," though the band's popularity began to wane at this point. However, after replacing Dave Holland with former Racer X drummer Scott Travis, the band reclaimed their spot at the top of the heavy metal pile with the outstanding, "Painkiller."

Despite the success of the album, frontman Rob Halford would leave the band after a dispute with the band's record label and formed the band Fight, before going to form the industrial metal outfit 2wo and the heavy metal band Halford. Judas Priest themselves took a long break before recruiting vocalist Tim "Ripper" Owens, who was previously the lead singer of a Judas Priest tribute band. With Owens, the band released the albums "Jugulator" and "Demolition" which were met with mixed reviews. In 2003, Rob Halford returned to the band and Owens replaced Matt Barlow as the lead vocalist of American power metal band Iced Earth. With Halford back on board, the band recorded the critically acclaimed "Angel Of Retribution" album and toured the world extensively before releasing the ambitious, 2-CD concept album, "Nostradamus" in 2008. Without a doubt, Judas Priest are as creative, passionate and dedicated today as they were fourty years ago and they've shown no signs of stopping this trend. All hail the Metal Gods! More...

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